Don’t go thinking this is some sort of self-admiration hour in the offensive line room. But a still-young Bulldog blocker can always use a shot of confidence. Especially a redshirt freshman thrust into a starting job ahead of schedule. Way, way ahead of schedule.
With five-game starter Rufus Warren available but “80%” according to the head coach, it was young Jenkins given the starting task against Troy. It turned into a 48-snap afternoon. Jenkins went the full distance without substitution, a heck of a way to celebrate the first college start.
“I think I did good,” Jenkins said.
“I was very excited. The only thing I had to was go in there and do my job, what I’ve been working for the whole off-season.”
An all-business approach is a little surprising under the first-start circumstances. Maybe it says much about Jenkins’ ahead-of-schedule poise. Though, he said, he had an entire week to get the mind right, after senior Warren limped away from Texas A&M.
“I think Monday my coach had told me it was a big possibility I was going to start. As of then I took it as I was starting.” Excited, maybe, but not shaking? Not at all, per Jenkins. Just business as usual even if it wasn’t ‘usual’.
“Because every week I go out there and train like I’m going to be the starter. So no, I did the same thing.”
It should be noted, Jenkins had some extra preparation for his first-team first turn. When Warren hurt an ankle it was his understudy taking over. Oh, and only against one of the SEC’s leading defensive ends. Rather than rattling, Jenkins saw it as opportunity for a test.
“My redshirt year I was seeing what Myles Garrett was doing. The whole time I was ready to take on the challenge to block him.” Jenkins won’t claim victory in the matchup. But he wasn’t whipped, either. He brought back priceless confidence.
For that matter, he earned a measure of same from his peers. Left guard Justin Malone gave the younger left tackle a positive review.
“That’s good,” Jenkins said. “The older players trusting me to get my job done.”
But back to that video review. What is Jenkins looking for now that he’s felt SEC fire?
“Like when I watch myself I look for me not finishing the play, loafing, you know what I’m saying. And mentally straining.” Only a lineman can judge that latter, the rest of us have to take his word for it.
Jenkins does say his comfort level grows weekly, along with every experience. Just don’t ask him what he’s doing best right now, not even pass blocking which he considers a stronger point.
“I don’t say I do it really well. I’m getting better at everything. I could be better at everything though.” And yes, he does prefer protecting Dak Prescott to any other assignment.
“Just so I can hem somebody up.”
Going into spring most figured a redshirt freshman tackle like Jenkins would be confined to reserve action. As that camp progressed though Jenkins leapfrogged a junior; and added to that, touted juco tackle Martinas Rankin was brought along deliberately, not to say slowly. Now here Jenkins is, not just alternate at left tackle but likely at right tackle as well since State shows no signs of activating Rankin.
“Only thing I can do is do my job and let my coach decide on the roles,” Jenkins said. That choice gets easier as Jenkins accelerates his own development. For one thing, the 275-pounder of 2014 now carries 305 pounds and could add more if needed.
At least he has more freedom to re-load the plate than most of his teammates. “It’s OK! But gaining that weight in a short amount of time put a turn on my body. I probably can carry more, it’s up to what Coach (Rick) Court wants to do.”
For now, it’s back to practicing. And reviewing. And pushing his pace up the Bulldog blocking depth chart. A successful start is always encouraging.
“But it’s always room for improvement.”